Category Archives: Community Health

Chamber’s July Government Matters meeting brings federal issues to WKTV


At the Government Matters Meeting were, from left, Greg VanWoerkom, District Director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-2nd); City of Wyoming Mayor Pro Tem Sam Boll; and Kent County Commissioner Harold Mast. (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

By K.D. Norris


The Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meetings bring together government leaders of all levels and topics often range from local libraries to Washington. D.C. politics. You can see for yourself as WKTV replays the meetings.


At the July 10 meeting, discussion on the current state of healthcare reform took center stage as Greg VanWoerkom, district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan 2nd District), gave a status report to the other government officials and representatives.


Greg VanWoerkom, district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan 2nd District). (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

“Really, all the eyes have been on the Senate the past two weeks, what their strategies are regarding healthcare, and we hope to hear more information on that this week, ” VanWoerkom said. “Everybody is watching every senator and what they are saying about it.”


Rep. Huizenga has consistently called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).


“What we are seeing, with the Affordable Care Act, is that more and more people are not having options to purchase (medical insurance) in the individual market,” VanWoerkom said. “Counties, states, individual insurance companies are just dropping out of that exchange marketplace at a pretty good clip. … the Affordable Care Act is not working.”


To see the entire discussion, check out WKTV’s replay of the meeting (link below).


The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Kent County, local Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, and, often, representatives of other State of Michigan and federal elected officials. The next meeting will be Aug. 7 at Wyoming City Hall.


The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a highlight story after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Cable Channel 25. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page ( and on the chamber’s Facebook page.

Grace Bible College student ‘part of solution’ to local human trafficking problem

Grace Bible College’s Kate Shellenbarger, with Wyoming police Det./Lt. James Maguffee. (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

By K.D. Norris


Many college students live in a sort of societal cocoon, inside the walls of their schools and surrounded by their friends and classmates. Some are barely able to decide what classes they want to take each year, let alone their career path. They often change their majors multiple times as they progress through their late teens and early 20s.


Grace Bible College’s Kate Shellenbarger is not your ordinary college student. No less a witness than Wyoming Police Det./Lt. James Maguffee would testify to that fact.


Soon after she arrived at Grace, the soon-to-be junior at the Wyoming college ventured off campus and waded into the murky midst of a possible local example of the nationwide problem of human sex trafficking — and her determination to “do something” about it has brought her recognition from the City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety.


She also has decided that combatting the problem of human trafficking is the educational and career path she is driven to by her small-town upbringing, her Christian-based morals, and her ever-expanding world view.


Shellenbarger already had some knowledge of the human trafficking issue, from her high school, having been involved with the “One Dress, One Month” idea, where someone wears the same plain dress for a month to invite people to open a discussion on the issue. She brought the “One Dress” idea to her new college, but then she amped up her advocacy.


“I come from a small town in Ohio, so it was different there than it is here, in a big city, like Grand Rapids,” Shellenbarger said in an interview with WKTV. “When I came here, I had a friend who I talked with, talked to her about human trafficking. She was the one who saw something and told me and we said, ‘Lets look up and see what this particular business is.’ It looks kind of sketchy to me.”


It was a massage parlor that attracted their attention — a business that can often be legitimate and operated by law-abiding persons, but can also be the location of illegitimate but hard-to-prove criminal activities such as prostitution. And where there is prostitution there is often human trafficking.


“I got kind of mad,” Shellenbarger said. “I knew it was right down the road. I didn’t understand why it was happening right in front of my face — right here and right down the road. So I called the police. … I was hoping they were already doing something about it. That was my hope.”


Working with local authorities; not just complaining


It was then that she began her discussions with the City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety, specifically Maguffee.


This story “is a 20-something college student cold-calling the police department and waiting until she got to the right extension to talk to somebody — there is patience involved even with that,” Maguffee said. “Really, it is just a willingness to call and have a discussion with your local law enforcement about your concerns, and see where that conversation goes. In this case, … [Shellenbarger] and I talked and we had mutual concerns, things we had both seen. But instead of her just making it a ‘I’m making a complaint, now go do something about it!’, she and I were able to say, ‘Hey, what can we do together?’. What can we do next? That’s when the conversation really can get going.”


Through Maguffee, and others, she learned more about the problem and local groups working on the problem of human sex trafficking. (For more information on the subject of human sex trafficking, including a WKTV Journal — In Focus discussion with Wyoming police department’s representative on two groups battling the problem and a link to an award-winning locally produced documentary, “Stuck In Traffic”, see related story here.)


Much of what Shellenbarger found out, many of the avenues she saw to get involved, frustrated her.


“I wanted to do something right now, and a lot of them were ‘You can do this when you get this degree’ or ‘You can do this when you turn this age’,” she said. “I was getting frustrated, but then I found S.O.A.P.”


Other groups working on the problem


Shellenbarger’s discussion with Maguffee led her to the Kent County Human Trafficking Taskforce, a Western Michigan victim-advocacy group which includes the local chapter of Women at Risk International (WAR). (For more information on an upcoming conference led by representatives of WAR, see related story here.)


And a seemingly small activity working with WAR during the 2015 run of ArtPrize led Schllenbarger to “do something now” — she decided to volunteer with WAR and other local groups working on the S.O.A.P. Project (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution), to deliver soap to area hotels and motels — soap wrapped in paper with the telephone number of a hotline to help victims report and escape trafficking crimes.


“There were a lot of people — men and women and kids, all helping to package soap,” she said. “There were a group of girls from Grand Valley (State University) helping me pass out the soap.”


Working with WAR’s S.O.A.P. project in 2015, inspired her to lead a can drive to raise funds for the 2016 S.O.A.P. project — both at her college and, with Maguffee’s help, throughout the City of Wyoming. That combined effort led to about 4,000 cans and about $400 to buy soap to be distributed to motels and southern Kent County.


It also led to Shellenbarger being honored this March at Wyoming Department of Public Safety’s annual award ceremony, and to her deciding to change her educational and career path.


“It boosted my confidence a lot. I showed me that I can do something right now, even being a broke college student, I can do whatever I put my mind to,” she said. “As far as my career, I wasn’t planning on doing anything associated with criminal justice — I was going to get into human services, to be a child psychologist. But that changed once I realized how passionate I was about this.”


She added that she hopes to work with Wyoming Police Department through a college internship, then, maybe, go to work with the FBI, or a nonprofit in the field, or doing research on the issue, she said.


As far as her continued work with the Wyoming Police Department, Maguffee said he would not be surprised by anything Schllenbarger does.


“To me, this is the important moral of this, especially for people like … [Shellenbarger] and other young people who are interested in getting started and making a change,” he said. “It is really patience over the long term.


“The cynic could talk about her and say that [only a little was accomplished] through a lot of effort — collecting $400 and buying toiletries with a hotline number on them and distributing them to hotels. That’s a great thing. And my hope is that some exploited individual will call one of those numbers and get some help.


“But even if that doesn’t happen, all of this is worth it because a group of young people at Grace Bible College are saying ‘Hey, there are some things going on that we can have an impact on’.”

Business leaders, WAR host human trafficking conference in Grand Rapids

Women at Risk International (WAR) will lead a discussion July 20 on the dangers of human trafficking as well as provide resources to help combat this growing crime against women, children and others. (Supplied)

By K.D. Norris


Tourism and hospitality industry leaders will be meeting with the local chapter of Women at Risk International (WAR) on July 20 for a day-long session to help educate the business community on the dangers of human trafficking as well as provide resources to help combat this growing crime against women, children and others.


But those interested in simply getting more information on the issue are invited to attend.


“The event is open to anyone who would like to attend, but much of the information will be focused in toward hospitality and tourism related businesses,” said Dianna Stampfler, executive director of the Kent County Hospitality Association. “Much of the underlying information and statistics however will be related to anyone interested in learning more about this epidemic.”


For a story on how one local college student became involved, see WKTV’s story here.


The event is Thursday, July 20, from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the downtown Grand Rapids Courtyard Marriott. The conference is sponsored by the Kent County Hospitality Association, Women in Lodging-Grand Rapids and Experience Grand Rapids.


According to supplied information, Michigan is one of the leading states for human trafficking — a modern-day form of slavery. It is defined but the U.S. Department of State as: the “recruiting, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion”.


Human trafficking affects over 20 million victims worldwide, according to the Polaris Project, with a total market value of over $32 billion. More than 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and this epidemic affects at least 161 countries worldwide. Between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls are sold for sex in the United States every year.


According to WAR, in many instances, hotels and motels, in both rural and urban areas are prime locations for human trafficking activity. And, when there are major influxes of people — such as during major events like ArtPrize — cases often soar.


The conference will allow tourism and hospitality professionals to find out why such activity is bad for business, how to be on the lookout for this crime and how to report suspicious activity.


The cost of the conference is $35 per person, with registration available by visiting here.


Wyoming police work with WAR, other groups to battle human sex trafficking

Wyoming police department Det./Sgt. Waters-Adams talks with Ken Norris of WKTV Journal In Focus (see the entire YouTube video here).

By. K.D. Norris 


According to the local chapter of Women at Risk International (WAR), Michigan is one of the leading states for human sex trafficking. In many instances, hotels and motels, in both rural and urban areas, are prime locations for such activity.


And, when there are major influxes of people — including during major Grand Rapids area tourist events such as ArtPrize — instances of trafficking increase locally as well, also according to WAR.


The U.S. Department of State defines human sex trafficking as the “recruiting, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.”


Human trafficking affects over 20 million victims worldwide — according to the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C., based group battling human trafficking — with a total market value of over $32 billion. More than 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and this epidemic affects at least 161 countries worldwide. Between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls are sold for sex in the United States every year.


“The act of prostitution is not new … in ancient civilizations there was prostitution … and sex trafficking is not new,”the act just used to be called “pimping,” said Detective Sgt. Julie Waters-Adams, the City of Wyoming Department of  Public Safety’s representative on two groups combatting human trafficking in Western Michigan. “It is not a new crime, but as law enforcement we are looking at it differently. … As a society and law enforcement, we are looking at it differently. We are looking at the reasons why someone may engage in prostitution. And that is my not be their choice.”


Det./Sgt. Waters-Adams represents Wyoming on WEBCHEX, the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation team, as well as the Kent County Human Trafficking Taskforce. The first is a law enforcement focused group including federal, state and local agencies; the second is a local group generally more focused on helping victims escape the trade — part of the “different” way to look at the crime and battle it.


(For a YouTube video on Det./Sgt. Waters-Adams talking with WKTV Journal — In Focus, go here.


To view the West Michigan-based, Eclipse Award winning, docmumentary “Stuck in Traffic” by Rich Jackson and Lisa Zahodne, follow this link.


Another member of the Western Michigan victim-advocacy taskforce is the local chapter of WAR.


Exalta Health on mission to provide medical care to underserved community

Exalta Health provides health care to an underserved population at two clinics, one in the 2000 block of Division Avenue. See close up of plaque below. (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

K.D. Norris


Exalta Health is a south Division Avenue based healthcare provider for low income residents of Wyoming, Kentwood and south Grand Rapids — serving patients who “have no place else to go,” the organization likes to say.


“There is a saying in health care that the best predictor of you heath is not your genetic code but you zip code,” President Bill Paxton said during a recent taping of WKTV Journal’s new “In Focus” public affairs program. “What we know is where people live is often reflective of their access to good health care services. It is really reflective of socio-economic status.


President Bill Paxton and Medical Director Laura Vander Molen of Exalta Health. (WKTV)

“What we are seeing is that people who have less income, less revenue, have poor health and poor access to health care — and that is across the country. Both in rural areas and in urban areas such as Wyoming and Kentwood and Grand Rapids. … What we see is that people with lower income often have other barriers to health care — cultural barriers, language barriers, transportation barriers.”


For a YouTube video of the complete “In Focus” segment, visit here.


Exalta works to break down those barriers to health care by providing “compassionate … quality … and accessible care” at its Clínica Centro, at 2060 Division Ave S, and its South Clinic at Streams of Hope, 280 60th Street SE.


We provide “mainly primary care, that’s medical care, trying to have patients have continuity care with the provider,” said Medical Director Dr. Laura Vander Molen. “We also have dental care — in the past we have separated dental care from medical care but now we are trying to see the patient as a whole person.”


Exalta has many care providers who either work or volunteer at their clinics, but it also works with community partners — including Spectrum Health, Mercy Health St. Mary’s, and Metro Health-University of Michigan Health — for speciality care services. But that sometimes leads to problems for patients.


“We work to get our patients in to see specialists if they need care beyond us,” Vander Molen said. “But when we send people out for speciality care, that tends to drive up the costs” and “becomes an insurance issue” for the patients.


“We (also) try to educate people on chronic diseases, so we do a class for people with diabetes. We also have behavioral health, which includes medical and social workers, and also counseling for our patients who may be struggling with behavioral health issues.”


Lastly, she said, there is spiritual support if needed and requested.


“We also have spiritual care. We feel that people are emotional, spiritual and physical, so we are trying to meet all those needs,” Vander Molen said.


Plaque at entrance to Exalta Health’s Division Avenue clinic and office. (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

While Exalta is proud that it is a religiously-motivated organization, Paxton makes clear they are more focused on serving the community than spreading the Gospel.


“We are a Christian organization, that is really our motivation for doing what we do,” Paxton said. But “overall, what we really want to see is a healthy community. Reflecting what we think the call is to us — as Christians, to do as Christ would do — to show compassion, and (provide) quality care. That is why we do what we do.”


For more information on Exalta Heath, call 616-475-8446 or visit


Get ’em outside: Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center opens outdoor learning lab

Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center math coach Debbie Schuitema, right, and David Britton, retiring superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, could not keep the students at the from jumping the gun on the ribbon cutting of a new outdoor classroom. (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

By K.D. Norris


There was a classroom full of kids playing outdoors of the Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center building Thursday, June 8, as the school district held the grand opening of its new Outdoor Learning Lab.


The adults present — including the incoming superintendents of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools — spoke about the “educational” advantages of the facility. The kids? They just liked being able to climb on things and roll down a hill and dig in the sand.


And that is just the way the two teachers who spearheaded the project — Debbie Schuitema and Julie Swanson — wants it: an outdoor education opportunity that looks a lot like play.


Debbie Schuitema, left, and Julie Swanson. (WKTV)

“Students are naturally curious, and when you bring them out here, without books, when you take a way some of the parameters, and rules and procedures, you allow them to be creative, curious and intuitive,” Schuitema, who teaches math at the center, said to WKTV. “The things they come up with is just amazing, and that leads to more learning. You can take that back inside and build on that.”


The facility, located to the east side of the Early Childhood Center (ECC) building at 961 Joosten SW in Wyoming, includes mostly natural objects which kids can explore and play with: a tree stump, a stone and sand structure, a grassy hill.


And Swanson, a physical education instructor at the center, knows the value of outdoor exercise as part of a student’s educational process.


“Discover yourself through play,” Swanson said. “Just something as simple as which way to you hold a big branch, little side up or big side up? They are learning engineering skills, math skills. … They learn gravity by rolling down a hill. … Really just discovering a new way to learn, but they don’t know they are learning. … (We are just) removing the walls.”


The grand opening event featured permanent and temporary activities such as a mud kitchen, rock grotto, climbing hill, landscape berm, covered gathering space/stage, dead tree stands, Congo drums, weaving loom and log steps.


David Britton, left, and incoming new superintendent Kevin Polston. (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

But the most important things the facility brings is the ability just to be outdoors, according to soon-to-retire district superintendent David Britten, who was present at the event along with the incoming new superintendent Kevin Polston.


“Kids today are spending far too much time indoors — it is a criticism of education in general. We are far too focused on content learning and memorization and test taking,” said Britten, who was a big supporter of the project. “We have lost some of these outdoor areas, places for kids to play in.


“So, as I walked along here a few years back, looking for historical artifacts, I thought: What a great place to have kids come out on a regular basis, and learn,” he said. “Find what native plant species that are here, what are invasive; what kind of birds and animals live in this environment. How can we make it better for them? How can we keep plaster creek clean? How can we protect the environment itself, so we can all enjoy it.”


Aside from the support of the superintendent, other supporters thanked at the facility opening include Women Who Care Grand Rapids, City of Wyoming Public Works, Dykema Excavators, DeWitt Landscape and Design, TonTin Lumber and The Stone Zone.


Special thanks were also given to East Lee students, Lee Middle School students, the Plaster Creek Watershed, Groundswell and — especially — the Godfrey Lee Board of Education.


“So many different people donated their time and energy to this,” said Swanson. “The Godfrey-Lee board of education, allowing us to do this without strings attached — that allowed us to be so creative. We really want to thank our board and our superintendent.”


NFL player Veldheer hosts local football camp for a cause

Local high school graduate Jared Veldheer, now a player for the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, will return to the area to host the Metro Health – University of Michigan Health’s Jared Veldheer Football Camp. (Supplied)

By Jennifer Hoff 

Metro Health – University of Michigan Health


Local high school graduate Jared Veldheer, now a player for the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, will return to the area to host the Metro Health – University of Michigan Health’s Jared Veldheer Football Camp.


The camp will be held Tuesday, June 27 from 5:30-8 p.m., at Grand Rapids Christian High School Stadium, 2300 Plymouth Avenue, SE. The cost is $20 per student, and is open to students from third through eighth grade.


Jared Veldheer, in a National Football League game for the Arizona Cardinals. (Supplied)

Veldheer is a team co-captain and left tackle for the Cardinals. In 2014, he was the team MVP. He is a Hillsdale College 2-time All-American and a Forest Hills Northern graduate.


At the camp, Veldheer teams up with area football coaches and Metro Health – University of Michigan Health Sports Medicine for the night of instruction.


“I’m excited to get back to Grand Rapids for another year of this football camp,” Veldheer said. “It is exciting to teach young athletes who have a passion for sports and are eager to learn. More importantly, I’m excited to share my message about playing multiple sports, eating healthy, and being a team player. My goal is to encourage all student athletes to ‘Stay in the Game’.” All proceeds from the camp go to the Keeping the Beat Program.


Dr. Ed Kornoelje, sports medicine medical director for Metro Health – University of Michigan Health will discuss with parents and athletes sports injury prevention.


“Athletics provide a great opportunity for students to learn many skills outside of just their sport,” Kornoelje said. “It is important for all student athletes, and their parents, to understand what it takes to be a healthy athlete. This camp provides a great platform to discuss these items.”


In additional to the on field practice, Veldheer will share his personal message on the drive, focus and discipline it has taken to be one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.


All participants registered by June 27 will receive a free T-shirt and an autographed book “Stay in the Game — Jared Veldheer’s Journey to the NFL”.


To register, go to


Wyoming to begin Gypsy Moth mitigation spraying this week

Spraying selected areas of the City of Wyoming for Gypsy Moth caterpillars will begin soon.

By K.D. Norris


The City of Wyoming’s annual efforts to mitigate Gypsy Moth infestation in the city will continue this month, with aerial spraying of selected areas scheduled to start Monday, June 5.


Households in the affected areas should have received letters notifying of the city’s mitigation efforts.


A female Gypsy Moth.

“The City of Wyoming is once again taking measures to protect our neighborhoods against Gypsy Moths, and the aerial spray is targeted for June 5-7,” Megan Sall, Assistant City Manager, said in an email to WKTV Journal. “If weather cooperates, you may hear/see our contractor’s helicopter overhead as early as 6 a.m. on the 5th. Under ideal conditions, the entire application will take 4-5 hours to complete. The contractor will start in the southern portion of the City and work his way north.”


According to the city, the insecticide being used is derived from a naturally occurring bacteria and is known only to affect Gypsy Moth caterpillars. It does not affect honeybees or other non-leaf eating insects, birds, fish or mammals. The insecticide is applied at a quart per acre in a very fine mist that targets the trees. The carrier liquid is water and drying usually takes place within a few minutes.


Despite the fast-drying nature of the mist, the city spokesperson said, residents are encouraged to exercise common sense and stay inside while the spray is occurring in their neighborhoods.


A map of the affected areas and more information can be found on the city’s website, as well as available on the city’s Facebook page.


Visit here for a previous WKTV story on Gypsy Moths.



Play smart: Summer is here, and so is tick-carried Lyme disease

Michigan’s deer ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, and if attached care must be taken to remove. (State of Michigan)

By K.D. Norris


For West Michiganders, at least those sticking around the Grand Rapids area and not heading up north, a Memorial Day weekend visit to the Lake Michigan shoreline is a great option if not a must.


(State of Michigan)

But with the un-official start of the summer outdoor season also a Memorial Day weekend, outdoor adventures also bring the un-official start of Michigan’s deer tick season — and with black legged (deer) ticks comes the risk of Lyme disease.


Most humans are infected with Lyme disease through the bites of immature ticks, called nymphs, that feed during the spring and summer months. But these nymphs are approximately the size of a poppy seed, so they are hard to see.


“Prompt removal of ticks is the best method to decrease the chance of Lyme disease,” Dr. Paul Heidel, Ottawa County Department of Public Health medical director, said in supplied material. “Seek medical attention if you develop a fever, a rash, severe fatigue, facial paralysis, or joint pain within 30 days of being bitten by a tick.”


Routinely, ticks must be attached for 36 to 48 hours for the Lyme disease bacterium to be transmitted.


The State of Michigan and local health officials have suggestions to avoid Lyme-carrying ticks:


When outdoors, walk in the center of trails, and avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass.


Around home, create tick-safe zones in your yard by keeping patios and play areas away from vegetation, regularly remove leaves, clear tall grasses and brush around home, place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas, and use a chemical control agent.


Use an insect repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin on exposed skin, and treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents) with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin — do not use permethrin directly on skin. (Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)


Bathe or shower after being outside in tick-infested areas (preferably within two hours). And conduct a full-body tick check (under arms, in and around ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between legs, around waist and especially in hair), especially inspect children.


Finally, if you find a tick attached, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.


’80s show to benefit local Metro Health-University of Michigan Health Foundation


By Alison Goodyke


Grab your dark sunglasses, tease your hair, put on your spandex and headbands and join the wave headed back to the ’80s.


105.3 HotFM presents Retro Futura: HOT ’80s Rewind on Tuesday, August 1st at the Van Andel Area. Headlined by synth pioneer Howard Jones, the jam-packed show will also feature sets from the English Beat, Men Without Hats, Modern English, Paul Young and Katrina (ex-Katrina and The Waves) in support of Metro Health–University of Michigan Health Foundation.


The arena will host a pre-party prior to the show complete with a local ’80s band, ’80s costume contest, ’80s karaoke contest, games, prizes, food and drink specials and more! The show starts at 7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m. and the pre-show activities will begin at 5:30 p.m. For more details visit


The Metro Health Hospital Foundation helps Metro Health meet the health care needs of more than 250,000 people annually. This includes providing assistance for people with limited or no health insurance, programs to detect cardiovascular disease in teens, summer camp for cancer patients and their families, Child Life Services for children experiencing hospitalization and funding to promote innovative treatment and compassionate care.


Tickets for Retro Futura: HOT ’80s Rewind can be purchased at the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place box offices, charge by phone at 1.800.745.3000 or online at Ticket prices are $45, $57.50 and $75. Ticket prices are subject to change.

May is Community Action Month Part 1: What is Community Action?

President Lyndon Johnson signing the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964


By ACSET Community Action Agency

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 established a network of Community Action Agencies (CAAs) across the country as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. CAAs were created to coordinate poverty relief programs and help people in their communities achieve self-sufficiency. Today there are over 1,000 Community Action Agencies serving 99% of the counties in the US.

Each May is recognized as Community Action Month and provides an opportunity to celebrate the work CAA’s continue to do in the fight against poverty. ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) is doing this work here in Kent County.

ACSET CAA’s Mission: We fight the causes and circumstances of poverty by investing in low-income individuals and families. Through dedicated staff and community partnerships we provide services, resources, education and advocacy to improve the quality of life for all residents of Kent County.

Each year ACSET CAA, with help from partnering agencies and volunteers, serves over 5000 Kent County residents. Most of these individuals live at 100% or less of federal poverty guidelines — that’s $2,050 per month or less for a family of four. They offer a variety of programs for low-income individuals, including:

  • Senior Services
  • Food Distribution
  • Transportation
  • Utility Assistance
  • Weatherization
  • Tax Preparation
  • Homeless Prevention

To learn more or find out if you qualify for services, contact ACSET CAA at 616.336.4000 or find them online at

Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

Caregivers need time off to take care of themselves

By Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan

Being a caregiver is one of the most difficult roles to fulfill, yet with the population of people age 60+ continuing to grow, it is a role that 1 in 3 people find themselves taking on. Some of us are thrust into caregiving due to an illness or an accident. Oftentimes though, we discover that the caregiving role has crept in and slowly taken over our lives.

It might start out simple — taking a loved one to the grocery store on occasion. Then occasionally turns into every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. along with doctors’ appointments several times a month. On these trips you notice difficulties with money or paperwork, so you double-check their bills, discover they are overpaying, and now you’re a shopper, bill payer, and health advocate. Sarah Sobel, LMSW, Caregiver Resource Coordinator at Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan said, “When I talk with caregivers, often times I go through some daily living tasks and I ask them about how much assistance they are providing to their loved one with these activities. Many caregivers don’t realize how much they are providing assistance on a daily basis until it is reflected back to them.”

We discover we’ve become a caregiver and didn’t even know it.

What starts out as lending a hand gradually grows into another job. The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates that caregivers spend at least 20 hours per week caring for a loved one. Yet, many people in this position still don’t consider themselves caregivers, especially if their loved one continues to reside in their own home. We regard these tasks as the duties or responsibilities that a spouse, a child, a parent or even a friend undertakes for a person they love, so we juggle the caregiver role with other parts of our lives, like our career, family and social life.

Fulfilling the duties of caregiver without recognizing that we are a caregiver can result in stress, anger and ultimately burnout, putting our own health and well-being at risk.

Sobel said, “This is why I encourage caregivers to build a village — whether formal or informal — for the times when caregiving becomes hard to handle. Do they have a friend they can call to sit with their loved one, while they take a walk? Maybe their loved one is a good candidate for an adult day program — where they might receive some attention and the caregiver can have some time off to take care of themselves.”

When we recognize ourselves as caregivers, we embrace that we are going above and beyond typical expectations, and we also then come to understand that taking care of ourselves is paramount to our being able to take care of others.

This realization also opens doors to resources that can help support us in our new role.

“An important part of my work at Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan,” Sobel shared, “is to provide the caregivers with education. These classes are a great way for caregivers to come together and learn about some of the issues they are facing.”

Taking advantage of the resources available in our communities helps caregivers build that “village” Sobel said is important, “In these classes, caregivers can come together — to share with each other about their experiences” and begin building a support network. Getting connected to resources early can also help us assess the growing needs of the person we’re caring for and, if necessary, get connected to professional caregiving services.

If you’re interested in understanding more about caregiving and the resources available, contact Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at 888.456.5664 or email You can also visit the Caregiver Resource Network website. Caregiver Resource Network and Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan can be found on Facebook.

Harvest Health Foods celebrates 65 years of healthy business


By Silvia Atsma, Harvest Health Foods


Local West Michigan business, Harvest Health Foods, is celebrating a milestone anniversary of 65 years of business. The anniversary celebration begins in May with special sampling events on Fridays and Saturdays, health seminars and special savings for customers throughout the month.


Henry Diedering, now 90, opened the first Harvest Health Foods in 1952 on Wealthy Street, shortly after he came to the United States from the Netherlands. It was the first grocery store dedicated to natural groceries, herbs and vitamins in West Michigan. For 65 years, it has been Harvest Health Foods’ passion to provide West Michigan with healthy groceries, healthy vitamins, and healthy answers, way before Jazzercise or kale became a rock-star vegetable.



Still family owned and operated, Harvest Health Foods has grown to three locations and employs 70 people. Henry’s granddaughter Emily and her husband Mitchell represent the third generation to be involved in the business. While specializing in natural and organic foods and supplements, Harvest Health Foods has recently expanded their wide range of local Michigan products with craft beers, organic wines and many varieties of kombucha.


Harvest Health Foods will celebrate with sampling events on Fridays and Saturdays the first three weekends in May. In addition, there will special anniversary savings throughout the store, free health seminars, give-a-ways, and prizes all month long.

Catherine’s Health Center: Quality care — with compassion

Marilyn discusses her health with registered nurse Linda Lanning at a recent appointment

By Ron Rozema, Catherine’s Health Center


Life handed Marilyn a set of hard blows when her husband died unexpectedly; her cleaning and phone-answering businesses were foreclosed by the IRS in the aftermath of his death, and she had spinal surgery — all within a year. She had no insurance and needed Catherine’s for her medical care, including medications.


Insurance premiums and the cost of medications still are out of reach, although she now is exploring Medicare coverage.


Ten years ago, a friend who also is a patient encouraged her to try Catherine’s. A long history of high blood pressure unresponsive to treatment, other health complications and a lack of insurance meant she needed care she couldn’t get elsewhere.


“Dr. Jack (Walen) immediately sent me to the emergency room because my blood pressure was so high. He’s the only one who has helped me keep it down,” she said.


Although she is thrilled with the medical care and improvement she has seen, it is the way she is treated that really touches her heart.


“Candy at the desk is my friend now, the nurses make your heart happy, and the fellowship is just wonderful!” Marilyn said. “If you didn’t know it, you would have no clue that you didn’t have insurance.


“I’m getting the best health care of my life,” Marilyn said, smiling.


Aging In Place: How older adults can maintain independence

Your Community in Action!

By ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA)


According to US Census data, persons 65 years or older represented 14.5% of the U.S. population in 2014; they are expected to represent 21.7% by 2040. Nearly all seniors want to stay in their homes or “age in place.” Unfortunately, there are many factors that can make living independently a challenge.

When our loved ones can no longer get dressed, fix a meal or remember to take their medications, small home modifications, transportation or in-home services may be all that is needed to help them stay in their homes. Here are some resources that can help older adults live where they choose for as long as possible.

ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) offers services tailored just for seniors. These include nutritious meals and door-to-door transportation. To learn more about CAA’s senior services, visit their website here.

The Michigan Aging & Adult Services Agency offers an online database of aging resources. To find supports and services near you click here and search by location or service type.

MI Choice Waiver Program is an option for older adults and disabled persons who need additional help caring for themselves. The program provides in-home services covered by Medicaid to income-eligible adults. Click here to learn more about services and eligibility.

If you or a family member are starting to have trouble doing everyday tasks, check out the National Institute on Aging’s tip sheet, There’s No Place Like Home — For Growing Old. This sheet can help you develop a plan today to maintain independence in the future.

Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

New hope for opioid addiction

By Metro Health-University of Michigan Health


In the past 20 years, opioid overdose has mushroomed from an anomaly into an epidemic.


During that span, opioid-related deaths in Kent County soared fourfold—from fewer than 20 a year to more than 80.


The strongest predictor of opioid overdose is clear: a previous history of overdose. That being the case, the ER will soon begin giving Narcan kits to overdose patients at no cost before discharge, becoming the first hospital in the region to do so. Narcan is the only FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone, which counteracts the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose.


Called O-180—O is the street name for opiates and 180 signifies reversal—the program is funded by a $40,000 grant from the Metro Health Hospital Foundation.


With Narcan nasal spray on hand, discharged patients who experience a subsequent overdose at home can be treated immediately before placing a call to 911. The Narcan kits will contain two doses of naloxone, along with information about community resources available to overdose patients and their families.


“Our goal is to reduce deaths in the community related to opioid overdoses, while also removing some of the stigma of opioid addiction,” says Crystal Gaylord, a quality and safety nurse specialist in the ER.

Blandford CSA supports local businesses, encourages healthy eating

By C. Davis


Since 2010, Blandford Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been growing healthy, chemical-free produce. Today, Blandford Farm consists of 2.5 acres where the focus is on sustainable agriculture. Over 40 different types of vegetables and over 200 different varieties of vegetables are grown on the farm.


The CSA model builds a relationship between people who love fresh, healthy, local food and a farmer who grows the food. CSA members join a sustainable community of like-minded individuals invested in knowing their food and knowing their farmer.


Blandford Farm’s summer CSA offers a weekly share for 21 weeks. Its winter CSA offers a weekly share for 8 weeks.


Every growing season is different with the weather playing a large role into how each crop will do. CSA members have the opportunity of a close-up experience with eating seasonally and how different weather can influence crop productivity.


To learn more and to become a member, go here.

Eat Local: Why choosing in-season, locally grown produce is good for you and the community

Your Community in Action!

By ACSET Community Action Agency


Summer is right around the corner. That means plenty of locally-grown produce options will be available. But why is choosing local produce good for you?

  • It’s fresh. Most wholesale produce is picked up to a week before it reaches a supermarket and travels an average of 1500 miles! Veggies and fruits grown by local farmers don’t spend days in transport. This means they can be harvested at peak maturity when they are the most nutritious and tasty.
  • It supports local farmers. The money you spend on local products stays in the community and boosts the local economy. It’s a win-win for you and the farmers.
  • It can cost less. When you purchase produce that is grown locally and in-season, you aren’t paying for the transportation costs of getting food from across the country.

What about families who have a limited grocery budget? Many local farmers markets participate in food assistance programs. Programs like Double Up Food Bucks, Senior Project FRESH and WIC Project FRESH can make buying local an affordable option for those that qualify.

For a list of local farmers markets and their food assistance program participation, visit and select Kent County.

ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) also provides food assistance for qualifying families. When in-season, locally grown produce is combined with the pantry staples offered by CAA, low-income families in Kent County can put healthy meals on the table.

Visit CAA’s website to learn more about their nutrition programs and see if you qualify:

Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

Staying safe: 5 tips to prevent summer emergencies


By ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA)


Sunshine and warm weather provide plenty of opportunity to get outside and be active. Don’t let an emergency get in the way of your summertime fun. Here are five tips to keep your family safe this summer.

  • Window Safety. Opening up windows and letting in a cool breeze is a welcome change in spring but can also increase the risk of falls, especially for small children and pets. Move furniture that kids and pets might climb on away from windows. If you have double-hung windows, open the top and keep the bottom closed. Remember, screens don’t make windows safe; even a small child can fall through a screen.
  • Injuries. Summer provides all kinds of opportunities to get outside and be active. Be sure to wear protective gear like helmets when biking, skating or riding a scooter and appropriate pads and guards for sports activities. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
  • Severe Storms. As tornado season begins, be sure to identify a safe place to go when there’s a tornado risk. The best options are in the basement or a storm cellar. If you don’t have one of these options, identify an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Water. Swimming and enjoying Michigan’s many natural waterways is a great way to cool off in the summer. Stay safe this summer by swimming with a buddy; don’t allow someone to swim alone. Young children and inexperienced swimmers should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket around water.
  • Heat Waves. Never leave children or pets alone in an enclosed vehicle. In just a few minutes, temperatures can become life threatening!


Unfortunately, no matter how prepared we are, emergencies can happen. Now, a new service, available to Kent County residents, can get you help faster.


Smart911 allows you to create a free online safety profile to assist 911 dispatch. For example, dispatch technology used by 911 systems can sometimes pin cell phone calls to inaccurate locations. However, with a Smart911 profile you can register your cell phone to a specific address. Call-takers will have a precise location for your home along with other key information like home layout, family make-up, pet descriptions, medical information and gas and electrical shutoff locations.


ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) is dedicated to providing resources to members of our community. We hope you will visit Smart911 to learn more and sign up for this potentially life-saving service!


Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

5 ways to save some dough on your food bill


By ACSET Community Action Agency

Households in the U.S. reported spending about 12% of total income on food in 2015. That’s nearly $600/month spent on groceries and eating out. For the many Americans who live paycheck-to-paycheck, saving on their monthly grocery bill could make a big difference.  The extra cash could be used to start an emergency fund or pay off debt. Here are five ways to get started:

Eat at home. Sitting down for a meal can be difficult for busy families. Eating out is much more convenient, but it comes at a price. Try to plan and prep meals ahead of time to make eating at home easier. You’ll save money and probably make healthier choices, too.
Plan your shopping trips. Avoid multiple, small trips to the grocery store. They can add up quickly! Instead, do all your shopping for the week at one time. Make a list based on your meal plan and stick to the list to avoid unnecessary purchases.

Check out the weekly ads. When you plan your grocery trip, check your weekly ads before you go. See if any of the items you need are on sale. If you have more than one store near you, compare prices to see where you can save the most money.

Look for the best deal. Grocery stores tend to put the most expensive items at eye-level, where you will see them first. Look to the top and bottom of the shelves to find less expensive options. Taking a few extra seconds to compare prices at the shelf can save you a lot at checkout.

Consider generic brands. Many generic brands are nearly identical to their brand-name counterparts but cost much less. Check the ingredient labels to ensure you are getting the same product and save a lot when you switch to generic brands.

If you or someone you know is having trouble putting enough healthy food on the table, ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) can help. ACSET CAA works with community partners around Kent County to provide food assistance to low-income households. To learn more about qualifications, distribution dates and locations, visit CAA’s website.

Upcoming distribution locations and dates:


SECOM Resource Center
1545 Buchanan Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or while supplies last

North Kent Community Services
1075 Northland Dr NE, Rockford, MI
Thursday, April 13, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. or while supplies last

Kent County Human Service Complex
121 Franklin St SE, Suite 110, Grand Rapids, MI
Thursday, April 13, 2017
1:00 to 7:00 p.m. or while supplies last



Creating a community that cares


By ACSET Community Action Agency


Each year, ACSET Community Action holds it Walk for Warmth to raise funds for emergency heating assistance for low-income families in Kent County. And each year, students at Sibley Elementary participate in activities to support the walk and help their neighbors in need.


For more than 10 years, second graders engaged in the social studies unit Learning About Communities, have worked together to make positive changes in their community. The students, known as the “Sibley Warmth Force,” write letters to local businesses to ask for donations for the annual Walk for Warmth.


“Our studies focus on citizenship and building community,” explained Bernice Wisnieski, a second grade teacher at Sibley. “This service project is an awesome way to bring the lesson to life.”


This year the second grade students wanted a way to get the entire school involved. They worked with the principal and scheduled the first Sibley Walk-a-thon for Warmth. Along with the Walk for Warmth on February 11th, all students at Sibley Elementary took turns walking on March 14, holding signs with the names of businesses that helped support the cause. Many of the older students remembered this project from past years and were excited to participate again.


In addition to the walk-a-thon, the students made and sold fleece blankets and brought in pennies for a total of almost $2,000 in donations. ACSET Community Action is grateful to the students for their hard work and warm hearts; to the businesses for their generous donations; and to the Sibley teachers for creating a community that cares for those less fortunate.


Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

Poverty simulation at Metro Health asks, “What could we do differently?”

Health professionals gather in “families” in preparation to experience a “month” in poverty. Photo by Ellie Walburg

By Ellie Walburg, Access of West Michigan


Reading a news article about someone living in poverty is one thing.


Actually experiencing it is another.


Metro Health Hospital Services recently hosted a poverty simulation workshop with Access of West Michigan. The goal of the poverty education program is to create awareness of the realities of poverty and bring inspiration for change in an experiential way.


Participants in the ‘Living on the Edge’ poverty simulation at Metro Health were assigned profiles detailing their name, age, family, income level and other related details. Each “family” then completed four weeks, made up of 15-minute increments, in providing groceries, paying bills, attending doctor’s appointments and other requirements as outlined on their profiles.


Afterwards, participants engaged in small group discussions to debrief and learn from one another’s insights.


Linda Bos is a registered nurse with Metro Health and attended the workshop. She, along with Heather Rayman, were given the roles of a 75- and 72-year-old couple struggling to make ends meet. Bos, playing the role of Anthony Xanthos, and Rayman playing his wife, Zelda, spent each “week” trying to keep up on their mortgage payments, provide $50 for food and make it to expensive doctor appointments.


At one point during the four weeks, they couldn’t buy groceries. Towards the end of the month, they were evicted from their home as they couldn’t provide proof of their mortgage payment.


Mobility was also a major issue for them.


‘We were struck that we were always concerned about traveling places,” Bos said. “We were never together — it split us up. We never did things together.”


Conversations about how they were doing or if they wanted to plan a vacation never arose during their time of balancing their meager budget and keep all their bills afloat “We sure didn’t talk about anything fun,” Bos added.


To accompany the small social assistance check they received for the month, Bos sought out other options.


“I also tried to get a job, but there was age discrimination,” she said. “There were forms to fill out that were difficult.”


Access of West Michigan Staffers share their own story of poverty during group discussions. Photo by Ellie Walburg

Not having an opportunity for additional income made balancing finances even more troublesome.


“There was no way out for us,” Bos said. “Neither one of us could get a job.”


Rayman was reminded, “Don’t forget we have to eat at some point in our life,” as she recalled the struggle of purchasing weekly groceries.


For both Bos and Rayman, living life as an elderly couple with little money was an eye-opening experience.


“Everything was tension-producing rather than pleasurable,” Bos noted.


That tension is something Bos knows first-hand. While currently employed and doing well, she has felt that same stress.


“There was a time when I didn’t have money to buy diapers, when we didn’t have money to pay the mortgage,” she said


Bos and Rayman agreed that this simulation could change the way they work with their patients and others they encounter.


“I think for me, I’ll be much more cognizant of transportation needs,” Bos said. “I’ll think, ‘What can I do to relieve some of those transportation issues.’”


Bos’s work as a nurse involves serving moms and newborns.


“I try to be very intentional with younger moms,” she said. “I’ll ask, ‘Do you need anything else for your child?’ ‘Do you have diapers?’ ‘Do you have formula?’”


She said she anticipates building upon that intention with those she sees.


“I think so often we don’t want to offend people,” she added. “But it’s really just about asking, ‘I want to help, what is it that you need?’” That intention, she said, can come through her following up with her clients through phone calls or other additional conversations.


Staffers Candice and Cindy are ready at their “health clinic” table to help participants. Photo by Ellie Walburg

Rayman added, “I feel like this makes me much more aware of things like transportation, medication, samples, getting them to a care manager or something like that — things I didn’t really think of before.”


As the simulation event drew to a close, attendees were reminded that while they stopped playing a role in a fictitious family, there are so many in the community who must continue with that difficult reality everyday. And now that the participants had experienced the frustration and stress of living in poverty, they, and all, are left with the question Bos wondered, “What might you do differently?”


To learn more about poverty education and the Living On The Edge poverty simulation workshops, please visit

Wyoming public safety personnel, civilians honored at ceremony

The City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety honored its police and firefighter personnel, as well as civilians, at an award ceremony late last month. (WKTV)

By K.D. Norris


Wyoming Department of Public Safety Director James Carmody, addressing a standing-room-only crowd at the department’s annual award ceremony late last month, made clear his feelings on the role his police and fire personnel have in the Wyoming community.


“Tonight you will hear stories of unselfish acts of bravery, generosity, compassion and guy-wrenching determination,” Carmody said at the Feb. 23 event at the Wyoming Senior Center. “The events we speak of tonight are just a few of the many thousands of times that our men and women step into the breach of danger and work to keep our city a safe and comfortable place to live, work and play.”


While the evening honored all of the long list of winners of Certificates of Merit, Certificates of Achievement, Life Saving Awards and individual and unit commendations, the highlights of the evening were the five personnel who gained special honors. (See complete list here.)


Ofc. Carmen Morales was honored as Officer of the Year, Firefighter Lance Bowman was recognized as Firefighter of the Year, Milt Zaagman was honored as Civilian of the Year, and Det. D.J. VerHage and Firefighter Brad Dornbos each received the Chiefs Award of Professional Excellence.


Each of the five had their stories told and, afterword talking with WKTV, reacted to their awards.


Officer of the Year


Ofc. Morales has been with the department for more than 20 years, serving as a patrol officer, a detective and now in the warrant unit. She has been a long-serving member of the peer support group and awards boards. Carmody, in supplied material, described her as “passionate about bringing justice to the victims of crime and believes in the dignity of all. Her unwavering commitment to professional policing, her fellow officers and the community makes her someone we can all be proud to represent us as our Officer of the Year.”


Ofc. Carmen Morales (WKTV)

The award “means a lot to me,” Ofc. Morales said. “Number One: I was chosen from my peers. … I have been with the city of Wyoming for 25 years, so I have dedicated myself to this department for 25 years, even though I consider them my family. It means a job well done, for me. I have been in so many units in this department, that I have to say I am glad I was chosen for this award and not for one specific thing I have done for the city of Wyoming but for a collaboration of things.”


“Tonight’s special honorees have been recognized by their peers, this is a peer-driven process,” Carmody said of the award process. “The awards you see tonight are recommended and voted on by their peers.”


Firefighter of the Year


Firefighter Lance Bowman (WKTV)

Firefighter Bowman has served as the director of the Wyoming Public Safety Fire Divisions Quarter Master Program since its creation in 2014. He is responsible for providing clothing and equipment for full-time, part-time, dual trained and on call firefighters. Of Bowman, Carmody said, in supplied material: “We commend him for his bravery and thank him for his service. His commitment to the department and his continued display of courage in emergencies serves as an exemplary role model for his peers.”

“I am very pleased to accept this award from my peers that I work with everyday,” Bowman said.


Civilian of the Year


Milt Zaagman is congratulated by Wyoming Department of Public Safety Director James Carmody (WKTV)

Zaagman, a building maintenance worker for the City of Wyoming, has served the community for over 40 years and remains an integral part of keeping the department operating successfully. “Milt defines responsibility,” a release by the Pubic Safety Department stated. “He is often seen before the sunrises and on days off shoveling the sidewalks or sweeping leaves from garages, according to a peer panel evaluation. He is highly respected among his peers. His name is synonymous with kindness, respect, service and selflessness throughout the department.”


“I have 41 years with the City of Wyoming, with the police department,” Zaagman said. “Back in the ’60s, when I was in the military, I understood exactly what a brotherhood and sisterhood was, and I have felt accepted and felt that same thing with all these years with the Wyoming police department.”


Chiefs Awards of Professional Excellence


Firefighter Brad Dornbos (WKTV)

Dornbos, the fire divisions emergency medical technician coordinator, established a mutually supportive relationship with Metro Health. This partnership led to a $10,000 grant, which allowed the department to purchase advanced medical equipment and fund the training of their full-time firefighters as EMTs. “Brads dedication to improved service has been instrumental in enabling our department to save more lives,” Carmody said in supplied material. “The ability to provide improved services to our residents and our community is because of his hard work.”


“It is an honor to receive the award,” Dornbos said. “It’s definitely a team effort amongst my lieutenant, chief, and our crew that we all work together… it’s a reaffirmation that we’re doing the right thing and moving forward to help the citizens of Wyoming and hopefully save more lives with the upgraded licensure and with the future accreditation coming forward.”


Det. D.J. VerHage (WKTV)

VerHage has served on the department for 24 years and has been forefront on many of its most important criminal cases. “Detective VerHage has been a top candidate of this award many times, but this year was his year,” Carmody said in supplied material. “Each day he embodies our values of honor, courage, duty and trust through his determination and dedication.”


“It is very humbling. The chief was very gracious, by what he said,” VerHage said. “I am very thankful and grateful for my coworkers, everybody I get to work with. This is a team effort and anything that I did is only possible because of my coworkers and everybody that helps out with every case. Every complaint, everything that comes into the police department from our civilians, to all of our police officers, detectives, and the admin as well. It’s very nice what he said and very gracious and there’s many many more deserving of this award, so, thank you.”


For more information on the City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety, visit the city’s new website at .


Wyoming parks and rec adult softball spring leagues now registering

The City of Wyoming Parks and Recreation Department is taking registrations for its spring softball leagues. (WKTV)

WKTV Staff


The deadline is looming for signing up for the City of Wyoming Parks and Recreation Department’s spring-season adult soft-pitch softball leagues, which includes both coed and men’s leagues.


Registration deadline for adult softball leagues is Thursday, March 16.


The coed league will play Mondays and Fridays while the men’s league will play Mondays and Thursdays. These are both 10-game leagues with a $475 cost per team. An additional men’s league, running Mondays and Tuesdays, will be a 12-game league and with a $525 cost per team. They will all include a single-elimination tournament at the end of regular season.


For more information, or to register your team, please contact recreation programmer Kenny Westrate at 616.530.3164 or


For more information about other Parks and Recreation special events or programs, please visit

Wyoming’s Hoop Heaven Basketball Academy announces youth programs

Hoop Heaven Basketball Academy will be holding introductory events this month and in April. (Supplied)

WKTV Staff


Wyoming’s Hoop Heaven Basketball Academy recently announced several youth basketball programs, including a March 11 trial event of its Travel Ball League Play and the Saturday afternoon Biddy Ball program starting in April.


Hoop Heaven events are held at the Elevation Church, 2141B Porter St. SW. The program’s mission, according to supplied material, is “Pursuing gospel transformation and leadership development in Wyoming area youth through the game of basketball.”


The Travel Ball League Play event on March 11 will start at 1 p.m. and is for both boys and girls grades 3-12. The cost of tryout is $5 per players and you must pre-register. For registration and more information on this event contact Phyllis Harder at 616-498-1128, email her at or visit their website at or visit them on Facebook at /hoopheavenbasketballacademy


The Biddy Ball program will run April 15 through May 13 and is open to both boys and girls K-2nd grade. Both friend (of teams) and entire team requests will be considered. The cost if $55 per child, with partial scholarships available, which includes a t-shirt. For more information contact Eric Vandyke at 616-272-6244, email him at or visit .


Warm a heart and a home: The 21st Annual Walk for Warmth is Feb. 11


By ACSET Community Action Agency


For 20 years, a group of compassionate individuals has bundled up on a cold Saturday morning in the middle of winter to walk. Why? The walkers brave the cold so less-fortunate families don’t have to. They walk for warmth!


The Walk for Warmth is a statewide effort to help low-income households avoid utility shut-offs and keep their homes warm. ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) will host the 21st annual walk in Kent County on Saturday, Feb. 11 in Grand Rapids.


Energy costs take up a greater portion of the household budgets of lower-income families than those of higher-income families. The increased burden on lower-income households reduces the amount of income left for basic needs like food, housing and healthcare. Last year, ACSET CAA provided over $1 million in utility payment assistance for homes in Kent County.


Hundreds of residents in our community struggle to pay their utility bills, and the need for assistance outweighs ACSET CAA’s ability to help. Every dollar raised through Walk for Warmth directly helps local families in need.


Want to help? Walk for Warmth offers a variety of ways to get involved:

  • Become a sponsor. Sponsors will receive recognition of their support in marketing materials and the day of the event. Businesses can connect their brand with a truly heart-warming event. Learn more about sponsor opportunities here.
  • Sell mittens. Contact a Walk for Warmth representative (give a phone number or email) and ask for a supply of “mittens.” The mittens are $1 each; write the name of the person purchasing the mitten and display at your office or business.
  • Get competitive. Hold a chili cook-off or cookie bake-off at your work, school or church. For a small donation ($5), tasters can vote on their favorite.
  • Give an in-kind donation. Consider making a donation of coffee, hot chocolate, juice, water, bagels, donuts or other refreshments for walkers on the day of the event.
  • Join the walk! Ask friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. to join you or support you with a pledge. You can find a pledge form on ACSET CAA’s website by clicking here.

Event Details:


Date: Saturday, February 11, 2017


Time: 8 am Registration; 9 am Walk Kick Off


Where: ACSET Westside Complex

215 Straight Ave NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49504


The Walk for Warmth is an annual event, hosted by Community Action Agencies across the country, to raise funds for heating assistance for low-income households. Learn more:


Your Community in Action! is provided by ACSET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

It’s not too early to think Tulip Time run 

Want to run through the streets of Holland at Tulip Time? There is a run for you. (Supplied)

WKTV Staff

The Tulip Time Festival has announced the opening of online registration and details for the Tulip Time Run on Saturday, May 6, at Kollen Park in Holland. The run — with a 5K, 10K and kids fun run — gives the opportunity to run or walk through Holland’s tulip-lined streets.


All run participants will be issued a race bib, a complimentary gear check tag and a free beverage ticket, redeemable at the after-party at Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant. Registering before April 2 ensures runners a participant shirt and a personalized race bib featuring their name.


The 5K will start at 8 a.m. and the 10K will start at 9 a.m. Both races will start at the corner of 12th Street and Kollen Park Drive and finish on 12th Street in the West-bound lane. Awards will be given to the top three finishers in each age division (male and female). The kids’ run will start at 9:15am at the playground in Kollen Park.


Registration for the 5K and/or 10K is $30, $35 after Feb. 28 and $40 on race day; registration for the kids’ run is $10 through May 3 and $15 on race day. A discount of $2 off each registration is available for families of three to five people. Registration is available online at tulip


5 ways to help the homeless this winter

Your Community in Action!

By Area Community Services Employment & Training Council (ACSET)


Each year, communities across the country conduct a point-in-time (PIT) count of homeless individuals. On January 27, 2016, the PIT count for Kent County was 800 persons. While the majority of the homeless were in transitional or emergency shelter that particular evening, over 5% were identified as being unsheltered. This means they were sleeping without shelter in the harsh winter weather.


Our community has many shelters, serving hundreds of people each year. Every winter they are faced with an urgent need to prevent frostbite, hypothermia and even death among our homeless population. ‘Tis the season to give, so here are some ways you can help.



  1. Emergency Shelter – Warming centers and emergency overnight shelters provide temporary protection from extreme weather. A list of resources in downtown Grand Rapids can be found here. If you see someone on the streets in freezing temperatures, contact the Heart of West Michigan United Way’s 2-1-1 database by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-887-1107 to get help.
  2. Give Winter Gear – shelters will accept donations of warm winter clothing, including thermal underwear, boots, coats, hats and gloves. Or you can contact a shelter to see if they have any specific needs. Again, 2-1-1 is a great resource to find a shelter near you.
  3. Volunteer – Most shelters and homeless programs are busiest during the winter months and could use more help. Contact a shelter near you to learn more about volunteer opportunities.
  4. Donate – Because this is the busiest time of year for shelters, they are using more. If you typically make an end-of-year donation, consider a monetary gift to a local shelter. You may even be able to set up a recurring donation so you keep giving throughout the year.
  5. Advocate – Advocacy means using your voice to address the root causes of homelessness, such as access to affordable housing. Whether you generate awareness on social media or make a call to your legislators about the issue, using your voice is an inexpensive way to help fight homelessness.

Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

Metro Health announces affiliation with U-M Health Services

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma


With an eye toward providing more medical services and increasing health care options in West Michigan, Metro Health this week officially announced that the affiliation process with the University of Michigan Health System has been completed.


In June, Metro Health and UMHS signed a letter of intent for an affiliation. In September, both institutions approved the affiliation agreement with final regulatory approvals needed. More announcements about the affiliation and its impact are expected in the new year.


“We are a sister organization to them,” said Ellen Bristol, Metro Health director of internal communications and media relations. “Our governance will be by the University of Michigan regents, but we are still Metro Health. It means our employees are still Metro Health employees and U-M employees are still U-M employees.”


Physicians, executives and community members from West Michigan will continue serving on Metro Health boards and committees, working closely with University of Michigan leaders.


“The new affiliation will offer greater access to U-M services and physicians,” Bristol said. “There will be more choices offered and the hospital is able to deepen its services.”


The new logo for Metro Health which shows its affiliation with U-m Health Services.

U-M and Metro Health began working together in 2009 when U-M started providing radiation oncology at The Cancer Center at Metro Health Village. Clinical relations continued to develop in pediatric cardiology and pediatric endocrinology, all of which helped to pave the way for the affiliation, said Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for medical affairs, dean of the U-M Medical School and CEO of the U-M Health System.


“We are excited to further expand U-M services in West Michigan and to provide access to the highest quality care available to more Michigan residents,” Runge said. “Working together, we will improve the health of our patients and our communities.”


Metro Health President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Faas said the affiliation marks a new chapter in Metro Health’s history, “one that builds on the incredible legacy which began in 1942 when 23 osteopathic physicians opened Grand Rapids Osteopathic Hospital. I can think of no better way to honor our founders than to ensure Metro Health is able to to grow and continue serving patients of years to come.”

ACSET provides a variety of services for the growing needs of elders

Senior Meal Kitchen

Your Community in Action!


By Community Action Partnership of Kent County


According to the National Institute on Aging, in 2010 13% of the population in the United States was 65 years of age or older. By 2030, it’s estimated that number will reach 20% of all Americans. Additionally, more people are living longer; Americans 85 years old and above are the fastest growing age group of elders.


How are communities addressing the growing needs of this group?


In Kent County, ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) provides a variety of services to assist individuals over the age of 60, including Latin American Services Senior Meals. These meals are designed to provide a healthy meal and social interaction for elders who may face a language barrier and isolation. Elders gather for delicious Latin American food and conversation every weekday. Home-bound elders can have meals delivered to their homes.


Mary with CAA staffer Ramona Alvarez

CAA has been serving meals to elders for 32 years; it has become a tradition for elders in our community and we’ve become good friends with many of them over the years. Our friend Mary announced at our Thanksgiving dinner that it would be her last meal with us. She plans to move to Florida to live with her daughter. With tears in her eyes, she said thank you and goodbye to many long-time friends. Mary has been a regular visitor for 20 years! We will miss her and wish her the best in sunny Florida.


Mary’s story illustrates how important social opportunities can be for elders. This is especially true around the holidays. We are hosting our annual Senior Holiday Party on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 11 am.


Our doors are open to those who want to enjoy a warm meal with friendly, familiar faces. Do you have a neighbor or family member that could benefit from our Senior Services? Learn more about our services and eligibility requirements at or call us at 616.336.4000.

Latin American Senior Holiday Party

When: Thursday, Dec. 15 at 11 am

Where: ASCET CAA – 121 Franklin St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 1st floor of the DHHS building

What: Latin-inspired meal and conversation. A small donation is recommended but not required.

Who: Anyone over the age of 60 is welcome to attend


Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit

Metro Health Village: Go the extra mile for better health

metro-health-a-great-place-to-walkWalking is as simple as it gets for a gentle, low-impact exercise that just about anyone can enjoy. In fact, walking can help prevent and improve many common health issues like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression, to name a few. All you need is a good, supportive pair of walking shoes and a safe place to walk, like Metro Health Village, 5900 Byron Center Avenue in Wyoming.


Metro Health Village has a number of walking routes and even a bike trail — all perfect for an afternoon stroll with the kids or a quick, weeknight workout. Download a Walking/Bike Route map here.


Need a little push to get started? Check out the Couch to 5K Training Program. Even if you’re not looking to set any world records, this program will have you up and active in no time!


Motivation is key when starting a new physical activity. Here are some ideas to help you stay focused and interested every day:

  • Wear a pedometer. Increase your steps a little every day until you reach the recommended 10,000 steps a day.
  • Get a walking partner – a friend, spouse, child, even the dog!
  • Sign up for a race or charity walk like the Metro Way 5K & Family Fun Run or the American Heart Association Heart Walk. An upcoming event gives you a goal to reach.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park farther from the door when running errands.
  • Plan a walking meeting at work.

Walking Safety Tips

Above all, it’s important to stay safe, no matter where or when you walk.

  • Walk with a buddy whenever possible.
  • Carry your name, address and a friend or relative’s phone number in your shoe or pocket.
  • Wear a medical bracelet if you have diabetes, an allergy or other condition.
  • Carry a cell phone, and let someone know you’re walking routes.
  • Avoid deserted or unlit streets, especially after dark.
  • Do not use headsets that prevent you from hearing traffic.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
  • Stand clear of buses, hedges, parked cars or other obstacles before crossing so drivers can see you.
  • Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections, if possible.


Trick your kids into veggies!

trick-kidThe struggle is real: Getting your child to eat just a few bites of his vegetables can be like pulling teeth. Frustrated? Well, here are five ways you can trick your kid into eating vegetables:

  1. Blend them into a smoothie. Add some kale into a strawberry and banana smoothie. Your child will never know the difference.
  2. Sneak them into baked goods. There are many baked treats that you can sneak nutritious veggies in. Check out this recipe for green zucchini muffins!
  3. Take your kids grocery shopping with you. Allow them to pick out their own vegetables. It will get them more excited to try them.
  4. Serve food your child already likes. Try adding peas or other vegetables into macaroni and cheese. This is an easy way to ease your children into vegetables. And who doesn’t like vegetables covered in melted cheese?
  5. When in doubt, turn them into soup. You can make vegetables savory and delicious by adding them to a stew or soup.

If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy delicious and healthy vegetables, check out our Farm Market recipes. You can also subscribe to our mailing list for upcoming food and nutrition classes.

City of Wyoming, Metro Health & UCOM team up, provide healthy food

farmmarket-recipes-h-439x215There’s much more than just delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers to be gained by gardening — it can also improve your mental and physical well-being.


And although gardening season is just about over, it helps to know that there are three entities in the area that are actively involved in providing food to the community as well as patients and hospital staff.


Founded in 2014 and measuring approximately 1,380-sq.-ft. divided into 11 raised garden beds, the Community Garden is a partnership between United Church Outreach Ministry (UCOM), Metro Heath Hospital and the City of Wyoming. Ten of the beds measure 4×8’ and one bed is raised up on legs, positioned near the front gate of the garden allowing mobility impaired gardeners access to fresh, healthy produce.


The Community Garden’s goal is to introduce fresh, organic produce into gardeners’ and their families’ diets. Over 150 lbs of tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, carrots and beets are donated to UCOM’s food pantry each year, with much more produced and shared between gardeners, friends and family.


In addition to fighting hunger in the Wyoming community, UCOM helps neighbors build healthy lifestyles beginning with the food they eat. The organization operates one of the largest pantries in the city, Client Choice Food Pantry, located at 1311 Chicago Dr. SW in Wyoming.


People living in the UCOM service area are able to access the pantry once a month and receive a three-day emergency supply of healthful and delicious food. Committed to personal empowerment, UCOM has encouraged people to select their own food for over seven years.


Starting October 1st, 2016, the food pantry is open to those in need on Mondays from 9 am-12 pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 am-3 pm, and Thursdays from 2-8 pm. Office hours are Monday through Thursday 9 am-5 pm.


Metro Health Garden works with its culinary team, master gardeners and community volunteers to grow fresh fruits and vegetables to be used in Metro Café’s patient and staff meals. The garden boasts an approximately 4,000-sq.-ft. area of rich, productive soil located east of the Hospital.


After being harvested, the produce is weighed and recorded. This information is used to track yields and productivity, as well as food costs saved by producing food on campus.


community-garden“Gardening helps relieve stress and improve mental health,” said Dr. Diana Dillman of Metro Health Jenison. “It is also a great way to get outside and get active. And of course the fresh fruits and vegetables are a healthy, tasty result of all that digging in the dirt.”


All-organic seeds and transplants are used to ensure that the produce is of peak flavor, nutritional value and integrity. A drip irrigation system allows efficient application of water, greatly reducing water waste.


Cooking classes, community presentations, and tours of the garden are open to the public and staff of Metro Health Hospital. Visit the Events Calendar or like us on Facebook for the most up-to-date information.  If you are interested in volunteering time in the garden, please contact volunteer services.


The garden also offers educational opportunities for youth and community members. The teaching garden is located behind Metro Health Hospital, in Wyoming. To register for these classes, or any of the other free or low-cost Live Healthy programs, visit or call 616.252.7117.


The Metro Health Garden is managed by Metro Health’s Culinary Team and Master Gardeners.


Metro Health offers free screenings for hunters before they head into the woods

generic-metro-healthAs West Michigan hunters head back to the woods, Metro Health Hospital will host a free Hunters Screening on Saturday, Oct. 22.


Metro Heart and Vascular and trauma services team members will be on hand for the session, which runs 7:30-11:30 a.m. in the main lobby of the hospital at 5900 Byron Center Ave. SW.  Various screens will be done to determine risk for heart attacks and other cardiac issues.


“Hunting is more than just sitting in a tree stand. It’s important to check up on your health before heading after that buck,” Dr. Matthew Sevensma of Metro Heart and Vascular said.  “Walking miles to your tree stand, climbing, tracking if necessary and then hauling back that perfect deer can really stress your body if you are unaccustomed to the exertion.


“While you don’t need to be in peak physical condition, you will want to be sure your body can handle the level of activity necessary to keep you safe while you are out in the field.”


In a study conducted by Michigan’s Beaumont Hospital which was published in 2007 in the American Journal of Cardiology, 25 middle-aged hunters, 17 of whom had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, were fitted with heart monitors.


white tail buckDuring deer season, all but three exceeded the maximum rate they had achieved on a treadmill test. Dragging downed game raised heart rates to the most dangerous levels, but several men experienced jumps into the red zone simply from spotting or shooting at a deer.


According to study co-author Dr. Barry Franklin, the strain hunting puts on the heart is attributed to three factors: hunting’s strenuous nature, the epinephrine (or “excitement”) response upon seeing game and environmental stresses, including cold weather and altitude.


Franklin also notes that many hunters in the study exhibited life-threatening heart-rhythm irregularities (aka cardiac arrhythmia) that had not been apparent on EKG readouts during laboratory treadmill tests. This was a disturbing finding. Heart arrhythmia is the trigger for cardiac arrest.


Sevensma advised:

  • Avoid hunting alone
  • Let a friend or relative know where you are hunting and when you expect to be back
  • Bring a cell phone in case of emergencies
  • Practice tree stand safety
  • Know the symptoms of a heart attack: shortness of breath, cold sweats and chest pressure or pain and/or pain that radiates to your shoulders, arm, jaw or back


Space is limited and registration is required. The screen will include a number of tests, including:

  • An EKG to determine cardiac risk
  • Cholesterol test
  • Body mass index
  • Blood pressure screen
  • Glucose test, which requires an eight-hour fast in advance


For more information or to register, call 616.252.5963 or visit Additional information on hunter safety is available at

Metro Health settles with former employee, hospital gets $1 million judgment

generic-metro-healthMetro Health Hospital has announced it has come to a settlement agreement with a former employee that includes a one million dollar judgment in favor of the hospital.


In the consent judgment received and filed by the Kent County Circuit Court last month, Laura Staskiewicz agrees to the one million judgment against her and dismisses her complaint against Metro Health Hospital thus ending the countersuit filed by Metro Health against Staskiewicz.


In April of 2015 of Metro Health and President and CEO Michael Faas of illegal and unethical conduct in connection with the potential sale of Metro Health to an out-of-state for-profit company. That sale, involving, Tennessee-based company Community Health Systems, has since fallen through.


Staskiewicz eventually voluntarily dismissed all of her allegations against the organization and Faas. In a press release, hospital officials noted that Metro Health did not pay any money to Staskiewicz to give up her claims.


Metro Health countersued Straskiewicz for damages caused by her release of confidential and misleading information about the organization. Straskiewicz agreed to the one million judgment against her to settle the case, according to the press release.


“I am pleased that the truth in these matters has been revealed,” Faas said in a released statement. “We are focused on the future and growing Metro Health. Serving patients has always been and will always be our top priority.


I would like to thank our Board, leadership team and the many employees who invested a great deal of time and energy to defend Metro against these claims. Aggressively defending ourselves was not the easy thing to do, but it certainly was the right thing to do. Our reputation in the West Michigan community is critical to our mission of improving the health and well-being of our patients,” continued Faas.


The Staskiewicz judgment is the second seven-figure judgment awarded to Metro Health against former employees in the last several years. Both million dollar judgments awarded Metro Health damages incurred in defending itself from false claims.


“This is beyond a complete and total vindication, it’s also an indication of how we will defend the integrity of Metro from frivolous, vicious and unfounded attacks,” said Doyle Hayes, chairman of the Metro Health board of directors. “We cannot tolerate baseless claims that take away focus from our mission of improving the health of our community. Senseless attacks against the organization are attacks against the entire community.”